Al Jazeera World

Assassination in Tunis

Investigating the 1988 killing of key Palestinian figure Khalil al-Wazir, or Abu Jihad, by Israeli commandos in Tunisia.

Khalil al-Wazir, better known in the Arab world as Abu Jihad, was a key figure in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), helping found Fatah in the late 1950s. For years, he was the effective deputy to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

He was shot dead by Israeli agents in an audacious commando raid in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, in 1988. Israel denied responsibility for nearly 25 years until 2012, when an Israeli newspaper published an interview with Israeli soldier Nahum Lev, who killed Abu Jihad, eventually revealing the truth.

khalil al-Wazir
Khalil al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, was shot dead by Israeli commandos in Tunis in 1988 [File: The Associated Press]

This film, Assassination in Tunis, hears from both sides of the story and traces the assassination in detail: How Israeli commandos made a beach landing in Tunis under direction from Mossad, Israeli national intelligence, and overran the villa where Abu Jihad was staying. Moments later, Abu Jihad was killed in multiple rounds of gunfire. His widow, Intisar al-Wazir, offers witness testimony to these final moments of Abu Jihad’s life. 

The Tunis raid that finally ended Abu Jihad’s life was a high-risk venture for the Israeli special forces. They sent a hit squad to a foreign country to kill a prominent Arab figure and escaped undetected.

However, Nahum Lev’s interview, published after his death, raised almost as many questions as it answered, including whether Israel had acted alone or had help from inside Tunisia.

Assassination in Tunis - AJW - DO NOT USE
Intisar al-Wazir, wife of Khalil al-Wazir was witness to the killing [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]